Maitland Council rescind mayoral minute on public library funding

A controversial rescission motion over a public library campaign saw councillors divided, with embattled mayor Loretta Baker calling the move “petty” on Tuesday night.

The successful rescission was spearheaded by Liberal councillors Mitchell Griffin, deputy mayor Sally Halliday and Ben Mitchell. 

Cr Griffin said the state government’s pledge for a $60 million funding boost for NSW Public Libraries had made the council’s support of the campaign no longer unnecessary. 

The Liberal councillor said the campaign had received funding pledges from both the NSW government and Opposition 

“I don’t see there’s a point to us continuing with those points of the motion which is to continue to advocate for the funding,” he said. 

“This is misleading information we are putting out there to our community, and it needs to stop. This is why we want this rescinded because its telling the community that’s not happening – our libraries are not in crisis.”

He added the campaign should not be taking up any further resources from council. 

The previously endorsed motion, from Labor mayor Loretta Baker, called for council’s support in joining NSW Public Libraries’ campaign lobbying the state government for funding. 

Councillors’ also supported the distribution of library funding advocacy initiative information in council libraries.

It was confirmed library staff had put up posters and made reference to the issue on council’s website, social media and monthly newsletters.

However, no further resources have been required from council. 

Labor councillors slammed the rescission motion, and maintained the importance of the campaign for the community. 

Cr Robert Aitchison said the campaign wasn’t costing council anything to support it.  

“It’s certainly not at the cost of our staff,” he said. 

“We are coming into an election. This is a pledge – nobody has put any money on the table yet. Until we see the money start flowing through, I feel the council and association are on the right track.

“We need to let the community know how important this is.”

But Independent Philip Penfold said council “shouldn’t be involved in political campaigns”. 

“We have two political parties that can form government. They’ve both pledged million of dollars that will take the funding for libraries beyond a level they’ve [libraries] ever had,” he said. 

“The only reason to have our staff promoting for libraries and online is politics. All it has done is ask us to politically lobby in council buildings.

“Council shouldn’t be involved in political campaigns.”

Cr Baker accused the opposing councillors of ‘missing the spirit of the campaign’.

“I think it’s pathetic. It’s not a political campaign [because] the two peak bodies leading this campaign is the [NSW Public] Libraries Association and the Office of Local Government NSW,” she said. 

“It’s about a future sustainable model. This must be linked to CPI and population growth so it must be sustained. 

“It is small, it is petty and it is base politics.”